AFLW Asia: Apsara Win in Thriller

The Cambodian Apsaras women’s AFL team recorded its maiden victory in Vung Tau, Vietnam on the weekend, stunning the Saigon Gaels in a hotly contested and thrilling game. Just four weeks ago, the Gaels had convincingly defeated their Cambodian rivals 31 to 6, however in a much improved display it was the Apsaras who held on for a five point win, 5.2 (32) to 4.3 (27).


Photo by Steve Forte.


The Cambodian team burst out of the blocks, quickly scoring the first goal through a pack-busting run and long kick from Carrie Lavin. This was to be the only goal of the quarter but the signs were good for the visitors who were winning the ball through the midfield, led by captain Hannah Slaughter.


The Gaels fought back in the second quarter and slotted two good goals to take the lead until agile forward specialist Sreylak Kuon roved the ball off the back of a pack of players to kick truly and level the scores 14-14 at half-time.


The tied score gave the Apsaras the belief they could win and they came out firing in an entertaining third quarter. Slaughter took on the ruck duties and immediately had an impact feeding the ball to Lavin who continued her dominance. Both sides attacked the ball hard and were rewarded with a goal each (Sreylak again for Cambodia) in an excellent display of high pressure football under the blazing April sun. At the last break, the home side led by a solitary point, 21-20.


A tough contest for the ball. Photo by Steve Forte.


What was belief, had transformed into a desire to win, as the Apsaras tackled fiercely in the final quarter trying to negate the Gaels’ run. Defender Nadége Cal and newcomer Tey Soum laid some crunching tackles and Sarah Pycroft was solid at full-back all day, however she was unable to stop gun forward Maz Scanlon from snapping a team-lifting ‘goal of the day’ to give the Gaels a 7 point lead. The Apsaras answered quickly through another barnstorming goal from Lavin and shortly after, Sreylak provided the big crowd with another highlight, sprinting away from her opponent to scoop up an awkwardly bouncing ball and kick an inspirational goal to put Cambodia in front by 5 points. As she did in Phnom Penh, Saigon’s Heather Turkle kept creating opportunities with her clearances and long kicks but Khmer mids Neat Khin and Peou Sophoan turned it up a notch to help maintain the momentum. In a tense and desperate final few minutes, the Apsaras were able to hang on for their first ever victory.


With one win each, the Apsaras and Gaels are leading the way in women’s AFL in Asia and they can look forward to a few more matches this year to continue their healthy rivalry.


Best: Carrie Lavin, Hannah Slaughter, Sreylak Kuon, Neat Khin, Peou Sophoan
Goals: Sreylak Kuon 3, Carrie Lavin 2



  1. Cat from the Country says

    Wonderful. I hope the game grows in Vietnam too

  2. Earl O'Neill says

    Great stuff, thanks. Wish I’d been there.

  3. I spend a fair amount of time in Cambodia, would love to see the Apsaras (great, original moniker) in action, the game appears to be played in daylight, would be incredibly hot, even by the seaside in Vung Tau, thanks for the report.

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